Plastic free jars, boxes, and wraps!

Healthy Food Storage Containers

Roundups

Updated for 2020!

We scoured the internet finding an assortment of safe, non-toxic, and good for your health ways to keep your leftovers fresh and looking good, may we add. All of these options are sustainable, have many glowing reviews, and are easily available. We also have a roundup more specifically for packing lunch you might also want to check out.

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COVID-19

Is Your Face Mask Offering Enough Protection?

Why some masks and materials are better than others

There's no denying COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down. And new rules and social norms have only added to the confusion caused by the pandemic. Since it was discovered that COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets and small airborne particles, face masks have become a part of our everyday lives. Whether we're running out to the grocery store or meeting up with a friend for socially-distanced coffee, face masks are a critical part of keeping society safe as we navigate our way through this pandemic.

Face masks now come in a wide array of colors, designs, and fabrics so you can have some personal style while staying safe. But not all masks are created equal. There's actually a big difference in how well certain materials can protect you. And since masks prevent you from getting others sick and others from getting you sick, we want all the protection we can get! We break down which face masks are best and which you should probably skip.

Why N95s are the Gold Standard

N95 respirator masks are usually considered to be the "gold standard" for face masks. In pre-covid times, you'd usually use an N95 mask if you were doing a heavy-duty DIY project or in the middle of a big wildfire. If fitted correctly, N95 masks have the ability to reduce droplet transmission to below 0.1% (2). That's why, at the beginning of the pandemic, they were almost exclusively being used by medical workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 and hospitals were asking for donations for these specific types of masks. There is one caveat though- N95 masks with a front valve only protect the person wearing it. The valve allows particles to escape from the mask, which could lead to others becoming infected (2). If your N95 does have a front valve, you could wear another mask over it to limit exhaled air. But if you have a choice- always buy a N95 mask without a valve!

Best Face Mask Options

There are plenty of mask options beyond N95 masks that will do a superb job at protecting you and others from COVID-19 infection. Researchers have been hard at work trying to determine the most effective masks on the market. Many agree that N95 masks are the best at filtering out particles, while well-fitted surgical masks, masks made from a hybrid of fabrics, and cotton masks all effectively reduce droplet transmission (3-7).

Surgical masks are traditionally used in hospitals to act as a barrier against fluid and offer protection to workers, but they're now a go-to option for people looking for a disposable mask to protect against COVID-19. The multiple layers of non-woven meltblown fabric make these masks really effective at filtering. They're a good face mask option because they're relatively easy to find now and can be pretty inexpensive!

Cotton is an excellent material for a face mask because it's widely available, natural, and breathable. Plus, it's machine washable! But it's important to look for a high thread count cotton mask rather than a low one. Cotton with "higher threads per inch" and "tight weaves" had better filtration effects than loosely woven fabric (4).

A hybrid of fabrics like cotton and silk, cotton and chiffon, cotton and flannel are also great options for a mask. The mix of fabrics helps create an electrostatic effect that improves filtration (4,6). Silk is "particularly effective at excluding particles in the nanoscale regime (<∼100 nm), while filtration effects for cotton/chiffon and cotton/flannel "was >80% (for particles <300 nm) and >90% (for particles >300 nm)" (4).

Whether you're clicking "buy it now" or getting crafty with a DIY project, surgical masks, cotton, or a hybrid fabric all offer solid protection against COVID-19. You can also get creative with different colors and patterns to show off your unique sense of style. But make sure to buy one that's comfortable! What's the point of buying that sequin-y, glitter-y, leopard print mask if it'll just stay in your dresser drawer?!

Better than No Mask, but Not the Best

While wearing a face mask is always better than going without one, some masks are better than others. Makeshift masks often provide very little protection when compared to proper masks. Gaiters and bandanas had "substantial amounts" of droplet particles detected outside of the mask (3), and researchers looking at common household items you could use as a mask found that a scarf wrapped around the face did the worst at preventing infection (5). It's also crucial to make sure your mask fits your face properly. Even if it's made from one of our recommended materials, an ill-fitted mask can result in "over a 60% decrease in the filtration efficiency" (4).

Conclusion

Any mask is better than no mask, regardless of the material it's made out of. Masks are a crucial part of keeping everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. N95s, surgical masks, and masks made from cotton or a hybrid fabric are all great choices, but it's important to experiment with different mask styles and materials to find the one that works best for you. If your mask is comfortable, you'll probably wear it more!


References

1.https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

2.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/resp...

3.https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabd3083

4.https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c03252

5.https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article...(20)30276-0/fulltext

6. https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/5.0016018

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7294826/

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Yoga Mat Roundup

So many om-azing choices!

If you're sheltering in place and want to take up a new hobby, why not try yoga? It's challenging, requires little space or equipment, and helps you relax! What more do you need!? Plus. there are a lot of free online yoga classes available right now for both kids and adults! We love that the whole family can practice together under one roof.

But what you may not know is that most yoga mats are made from harmful, synthetic material. Our other article goes into more detail about this topic, but to sum it up: yoga mats are made from PVC and PU. And yoga mats break down over time and little bits of harmful material can end up all around your house. Some companies claim to be eco-friendly but still use harmful chemicals like PER, which contains PVC. Nama-stay away from that!

Our yoga mat roundup only features mats made from natural materials (with the exception of recycled water bottles) like jute, cotton, cork, and natural rubber. None of these mats contain harmful chemicals derived from fossil fuels.



a) Jade Yoga Harmony Mat
b) Maduka Eko Yoga Mat
c) Merrithew Natural Rubber and Cork Yoga Mat
d) Repose Yoga Mat
e) Design Lab Yoga Mat


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.


Family

Are Foam Play Mats Safe For Babies?

Don't let tummy time be toxic time

Squishy foam mats or those large colorful floor puzzles can seem like a great way to keep your baby comfortable during tummy time or cushion your clumsy toddler's falls. As useful as these play mats are, it is important to choose the right material before buying! Some mats are made of substances that can harm your baby's health, and manufacturers are often not transparent about what is in their "foam" products. The safety of products manufactured for use by children is particularly important, since children are especially vulnerable to toxic exposures. Here is what you need to know to make an informed, healthy choice for your child.

What's in Foam Baby Mats?

Foam mats popular in homes, schools, and even childcare centers. But what is in the foam? Many foam materials like those used for baby mats, yoga mats and in gyms are usually made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane, or EVA. But it's almost impossible to find a more detailed description than that. Even extensive research doesn't turn up many results.

Polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane foam in baby products are less popular than they once were, and EVA is often looked at as a less toxic alternative. However, there are problems with all three materials. PVC, aside from being a plastic polymer that can bind and spread other toxics, is often also treated with phthalates. This additive, used for increased flexibility, is a known endocrine disruptor with harmful effects on many body systems (1). Polyurethane, although itself is non-toxic, is flammable and typically contains added flame-retardants like PBDEs that can be detrimental to child development (2,3).

EVA, typically advertised as the non-toxic choice often tests positive for formamide, another toxic chemical. Although some EVA mats are advertised as formamide free, this doesn't necessarily mean what it says. "Formamide free" means that there may be trace levels of formamide, but the levels are low enough that companies are allowed to market their products as free of the chemical (4). EVA is definitely a better option than PVC or polyurethane, but with any of these foam materials, it is very difficult to know what chemicals you could be bringing into your home.

Safer Alternatives

If you want to ensure your child will not be exposed to any toxics from their play mats, an organic cotton mat is the best choice. There have been a number of studies showing that foam mats use at home, in childcare centers, and in gyms are associated with significantly increased exposure to a wide range of toxic chemicals, like the ones mentioned previously. These chemicals are associated with many adverse health and developmental problems including neurological issues, and reproductive and liver toxicity (5).

As research becomes more robust, we are finding that more and more household items contain toxic chemicals or materials. Currently, there are no strong laws that ban the use of chemicals in foam mats and manufacturers are not required to disclose their composition. So, it is up to you to be proactive and keep your little ones safe from harmful exposures.

References

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29684738

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29703676

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29630944

4)https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/201...!

5) https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/chemical_factshe...

6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31108294

7)https://s3.amazonaws.com/hbnweb.prod/uploads/files...

Home

Wondering If You Should Jump On the Organic Cotton Train?

The surprising reasons why it might not be the best bang for your buck when it comes to buying organics

If you've made the move to try and purchase organic products for the betterment of your health and the environment, you've probably heard of a slew of things that you can purchase that are organic - kale, apples, cereal, even cotton. We recommend a simple way to prioritize your organic produce purchases, but how does cotton fit into this? Is it worth the extra dollars? Clothes, sheets, towels, baby blankets, and all the other things around the house that are made from cotton can add up quickly. You might be thinking about organic, but aren't so sure. Well, we've weighed the pros and cons for you below to make an informed decision.

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Roundups

9 Non-Toxic Organic Tampons

No fragrances, dyes, chlorine, pesticides, and are all well reviewed

Your vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of your body. That means they are very good at helping all kinds of chemicals enter your body, and often that they are pretty sensitive. You need a tampon that won't leak and is comfortable. Not one made with fragrances, dyes, chlorine, and pesticides. So, when you can, opt for products that are organic and free from other unknown and non-disclosed ingredients while still doing what they were designed to do (including when it comes to sex).

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Setting up your nursery is one of the most fun (and adorable!) parts of nesting. It means you have the opportunity to design a whole room of tiny baby items that will be full of baby's firsts. While that's exciting, we also know filling a nursery with everything a baby needs can be tough on the budget. And on top of that, if you're trying to go non-toxic and eco-friendly, it isn't always easy on your wallet. So, if you are going to prioritize one thing to spend a little extra on that will dramatically reduce the amount of chemicals around your newborn, make it the crib mattress. We looked at the research and found that getting a non-toxic, crib mattress is definitely worth it.

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Home

Tips for Buying Your First Real Couch

How to pick one that is both comfy and healthy

Congrats on making your next big #adulting decision! Your first foray into buying a real, large piece of furniture. Now come the big questions: where to look? How much does it really cost? How am I going to get it through the door (or up the stairs)? What color should it be?

One more thing to think about is what might be hiding in the couch. Things like chemicals or toxic substances that might sound like good things, but secretly aren't - like stain resistant fabric and flame-retardants. If you want to cut to the chase, look at our roundup of healthy modern couches you can buy online.

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